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Current Issue:

Holiday blues – depression in the elderly

The holiday season is quickly coming upon us. If you are a caregiver for an elderly loved one, you may notice a change in your loved one’s mood as the holidays approach. Perhaps you are one of many, who visit elderly parents and family during the holidays who live a distance away. When you visit you may notice that loved ones are not as physically active, or they show symptoms of fatigue or sadness and have no interest in the holiday or in their surroundings.

Depression in the elderly is difficult to diagnose and is frequently untreated. The symptoms may be confused with a medical illness, dementia, or malnutrition due to a poor diet. Many older people will not accept the idea that they have depression and refuse to seek treatment.

What causes depression in the elderly?

It is not the actual holiday that causes depression, but the fact that holidays tend to bring memories of earlier, perhaps happier times. Additional contributing factures that bring on depression may be the loss of a spouse or close friend, or a change with an older person’s routine.

Depression may also be a sign of a medical problem. Chronic pain or complications of an illness or memory loss can also cause depression. In addition, diet can also be a factor when proper nutrition and vitamins are lacking.

Symptoms to look for in depression might include:

•Depressed or irritable mood
•Feelings of worthlessness or sadness
•Expressions of helplessness
•Anxiety
•Loss of interest in daily activities
•Loss of appetite
•Weight loss
•Lack of attending to personal care and hygiene
•Fatigue
•Difficulty concentrating
•Irresponsible behavior
•Obsessive thoughts about death
•Talk about suicide

How do you know if it is depression or dementia?

Depression and dementia share similar symptoms. A recent article on Helpguide.org gives some specific differences:

Treating depression in older people.

Once the cause of depression is identified, a treatment program can be implemented. Treatment may be as simple as relieving loneliness through visitations, outings and involvement in family activities. In more severe cases antidepressant drugs have been known to improve the quality of life in depressed elderly people. Cognitive therapy sessions with a counselor may also be effective.

As a care giver or family member of a depressed older person, make it your responsibility to get involved. The elder person generally denies any problems or may fear being mentally ill. You can make the difference in and remove the Holiday Blues from seniors suffering from depression. The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation offers a “Depression Tool Kit.” To read more about the toll kit and depression in the elderly go to:www.gmhfonline.org

To find a Senior Health Care Services in your area on the National Care Planning Council website go to:www.longtermcarelink.net
The National Care Planning Council supports the work of geriatric practitioners and their services to the growing senior population.